Historical Context

First, you should know how things got this way.

“Gestalt language processing” is the term that Ann Peters coined to capture a notion with prescriptive (not descriptive) analytical tools. Peters is a formalist linguist; that is to say, at the time, she was neither (a) a cognitive linguist nor (b) did she belong to any viable category of SLP or CDT (to my knowledge, anyway, which might be insufficient).

Formalist Linguistics: Blissfully Defined by Cherry-picked Data

Whenever any evidence counters a formalist theory, that contrary portion of the data is summarily dismissed as irrelevant (e.g., “People don’t say it that way very often,” or, “That’s not how normal people like us talk”); in other words, adherence with the theory is the (circular) metric for data validity. It’s the epitome of the ivory tower (which is a turret on the fortress to which I have previously referred). I’m not just taking the piss: this “research method” is explicit with its practitioners, where formalist bigwigs like Noam Chomsky defend it vehemently (albeit unsuccessfully).

It’s a self-granted license to just make shit up. Nice work when you can get it.

What I have to say next is not a criticism of Peters the person. I am presenting extended examples of a particular rhetorical trick so as to improve the likelihood of your noticing it elsewhere. 

The self-fulfilling character of this prophecy is clear very early on in her work. In §1.3, Peters describes “Units From The Linguist’s Point Of View,” the title of which is just as much a warning as the likes of:

  • Urban VIII’s “The Planets From an Astronomer’s Point of View”;
  • Harry Laughlin’s “The Races from a Scientist’s Point of View”;
  • Anita Bryant’s “The Orientations from a Woman’s Point of View”; or, of course,
  • Donald Trump’s “Women from a Feminist’s Point of View”

To be absolutely clear, then, while the word “linguist” is used in her chapter heading, the related material refers only to formalists, and certainly not to cognitive linguists. The false implication is that linguists in general agree, when a significant number (and type) of them fundamentally do not.

The consequence is that her notion of “units” does not match the evidence in the actual use of the language; it is only a model that seems right to Peters, and to other formalists of that era. Based upon that self-serving illustration, Peters then isolates some children to promote the myth of a pathologized population, with no appreciation for where their language fits within the grand scheme.

Knowing that we would get to this point in the discussion, that is to say, where we need to identify the dysfunctions that Peters had intended to describe, I have already included an accurate description of the real underlying functions.

Head to the next stage of the tutorial.

Clyr Ink Press © 2020 (most recent update: 2024)

Policies and Terms

Email the webmaster.

Built with Sparkle.